A Culture of Insults?

Growing up was fun and sometimes difficult because I couldn’t get away with much. There was no way I could insult a playmate without getting a scolding from a passing adult. There was no way I was going to see or hear an insult on TV or in a movie. There were fewer television programs back then.

I still remember Aku Shika as one of my favourite Ghanaian movies. The movie producers made up for their poor equipment by producing educative, funny and generally better movies. The ever popular Sunday evening Osofo Dadzi was not popular because it was the ‘only’ show but because it remained innovative, comic and stayed true to its moral themes.

This post was inspired by Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood and an observation made by Graham.

Things have definitely changed.


It is not now as it hath been of yore;—

Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

Are we slowly descending into a Culture of Insults? I think we are! And I’m not even talking about politicians here. I’m talking about the many insults trotro drivers and taxi drivers hurl at each other and other road users. I am talking about the local Ghanaian language movies that sell for cheap and find their way into our homes and broadcast to our television sets. I am talking about all the insults we are taking in and likely to give back after they have festered and can’t be suppressed any longer.

If there is something I hate about public transportation, it is that trotro drivers and their mates insult just about everyone they encounter in the line of duty.

– How many times haven’t trotro drivers honked at and insulted private drivers who are waiting ahead of them at a traffic light? [moments before the light turns green].

– How many times haven’t trotro drivers overtaken and insulted private drivers who [have made the conscious effort to] respect the speed limit, road signs and the zebra-crossing

– I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a trotro driver insult a private driver or a pedestrian just for the sake of it; calling a private driver ‘a privileged *insert expletive*’ is so commonplace that some passengers in these buses laugh or throw in their insults for good measure.

I can’t stand insults in Ghanaian movies, especially those that are meant to incite laughter . Why can’t Agya Koo, Judas and Kyewaa say or do something funny or say something witty?

– Casting my mind back to Kwaw Ansah’s Love Brewed in the African Pot, I wonder where all the smart people in the Ghanaian movie industry went. Can’t we simply produce a comic moment that will be as memorable as the closing scene of the #LBitAP any longer? Without resorting to insults?

– Unless I’m wrong, everyone of these movies is supposed to carry a socio-cultural message. You can check their titles or watch how in the end the good always triumphs over the evil, how Ghanaian traditions are upheld and portrayed in all of its splendour. [the typical Ghanaian storyline]. However, what the audience take from these movies are the many insults. The chain of insults can be heard playing on people’s cell phones and the latest of them are actually discussed.

– You find adults laughing when they hear kids throwing these same insults around because they happen to be quoting Agya Koo or Kyewaa. (And before you think that you don’t fall in this category, remember that ‘this category’ happens to be the majority of the Ghanaian population).

Don’t tolerate this creeping phenomenon. Don’t let us stand by while Ghana descends into a culture of insults.

Reproach a kid you see insulting another kid because that is the Ghanaian thing to do. And, remind an adult to watch his/her language [if the circumstances permit] because that is the Ghanaian thing to do.

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  1. #1 by Graham Knight on November 19, 2010 - 10:12 am

    Has Ghanaian culture been redefined? Are the movies reflecting Ghanaian life or creating it?

  2. #2 by Tiffany on November 19, 2010 - 10:29 am

    Thought provoking insight Bright. 🙂 I can’t help but to think about American comedy as a comparison. There was a time when American comedy could be clever and funny without skirting moral boundaries, but nowadays you see a lot of trashy movies in American cinema. You don’t need insults, sex and cussing to be funny, but it seems that has been forgotten in my country. Moral degradation happens to all societies overtime. I think its because its easy to take one’s values and culture for granted, to the point where you don’t even notice when they start to fade. The saying is “You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.” Ghanaians need to make an effort to preserve what they hold dear about being Ghanaian, or else all of those things will be lost in the name of modernization.

  3. #3 by hollatainment on November 19, 2010 - 10:31 am

    The movies reflect Ghanaian life and at the same time define new boundaries. The movies people watch basically reflects their social, educational etc status. As the educated are being stimulated on many fronts, the uneducated have only these mediocre movies for company and they are the majority. Ghana is getting dumber and dumber from how I see it.

  4. #4 by Kinna on November 19, 2010 - 11:52 am

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been thinking and worrying over the same issue for months now. The insults and violence in our movies and in Nigerian movies is simply too much and I’m always asking other people whether it reflects the Ghana that they live in. Sadly, many people answer with a resounding yes. It takes real talent and lots of it to be a comedian or write even moderately good comedy. Sadly, those parading as our comedians these days do not have the requisite talent nor are they willing to learn. Afterall, everything that they produce sells fast. and what’s even sadder is that people actually enjoy these movies!

  5. #5 by hollatainment on November 20, 2010 - 4:33 pm

    @Tiffany, at least in the states and other developed countries there are a variety to choose from. There are no satirist to put politicians on the spot here, there are no situational comedians here; just the same old faces insulting themselves back and forth. But I agree that the general trend is an attempt at making offensive language ‘normal’.

  6. #6 by hollatainment on November 20, 2010 - 4:57 pm

    Kinna, It’s been eating me up lately, nice that others share same sentiments. Thanks!

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